Hearing Loss in Older adults – Types, treatment, symptoms and causes
Almost one in 3 three people suffer from hearing loss from the age of 65 to 74 in India, and almost half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. It’s growing into being a prevalent problem among older adults. It is a result of ageing, disease, noise or heredity. Adults with hearing loss find it extremely difficult to have a conversation with their loved ones. Constantly speaking at a high voice is also a trouble for the friends and family, especially if it’s a phone call.
Due to hearing loss, misunderstanding can arise among the family members or a gap in active conversation. It can also be difficult to understand the doctor’s advice, talk to friends or respond to warning and hear bells and alarms. Some adults also deny having a hearing loss problem without realising the change.
Hearing loss can cause social and mental problems. The chances of becoming depressed or withdrawing from active discussion with others in the fear of annoying or irritating them can be a concern. Sometimes, even we perceive older adults who can’t hear well as confused, uncooperative or unresponsive.
Hearing problems that are not taken notice or alarmed about can progress into a serious and permanent disease. If anyone is going through any sort of hearing problem, then instantly visit a doctor. Hearing loss treatment such as hearing aids, training, medication and surgery are available to correct it.
Older adults with hearing loss have a significant risk of getting dementia than the older adults who have a standard hearing is proved by a recent study.
Retention of memory and focus also declines rapidly in older adults with hearing loss compared to older adults with standard hearing. So, it’s increasingly important that we treat hearing problems to eliminate the risk of damage to our cognitive abilities.
What are the hearing loss symptoms?
There are few hearing problems and signs that you might fail to recognise at the onset of hearing loss. However, here are some of the common symptoms of hearing loss, please consult your doctor immediately if you experience any:
Face problem while talking through the phone
- Difficulty in the following conversation when more than one person is conversing.
- Thinking that others are probably mumbling or sleeping in lower voice tone.
- Asking any person to repeat themselves to hear them properly.
- Increasing the TV/laptop volume to a high extent that other complaints.
- Having many problems in hearing the background noise.
- Hard time understanding what women or kids are saying to you.
What are the types of hearing loss?
The degree of hearing loss can be varied. Ranging from a lenient conductive hearing loss where a person is unable to hear only a certain kind of increased-pitched, such as the tone of women and children to complete loss of hearing.
Here are the two main categories of hearing loss:
1: Conductive hearing loss
When the sound waves fail to reach the inner ear, conductive hearing loss occurs. This hearing loss causes earwax buildup, punctured eardrum or a fluid. Surgery or treatment can help restore this hearing loss.
2: Sensorineural hearing loss:
It occurs when there’s an injury to the inner ear or the auditory nerve of the ear. The sensorineural loss of hearing is mostly irreversible.
3: Sudden hearing loss
This type of hearing loss or also known as sudden deafness is an instant hearing loss in people. It can occur to a person suddenly or take over 3 days. Regarded as a severe emergency, if you ever experienced a sudden urge of sensorineural hearing loss, visit your doctor immediately.
4: Age-related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)
The byproduct of ageing gives age-related hearing loss or also known as Presbycusis. As you grow older, the chances of developing age-related hearing loss are an all-time high. Due to the change in the inner ear and auditory nerve, this hearing loss can also occur in the offspring if the condition is proved to be hereditary.
Age-related hearing loss makes it difficult to live with loud sounds or hear what others are saying. It affects both the ears, you’ll feel hearing loss equally. The decline in hearing is gradual in Presbycusis so people might find it difficult to understand if they’ve lost the competence of hearing.
5: Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
Older adults also have another common hearing loss type, known as Tinnitus. Described as a ring in the ears can also sound like clicking, hissing, buzzing or roaring. Tinnitus is temporary, i.e it can happen and disappear with time. It’s a mixed hearing loss type, where you can experience hearing loss in one ear or both. Tinnitus is often the first symptom for hearing loss in older adults. Other health complications along with Tinnitus are high blood pressure, allergies and complications from medication.
However, it’s not a disease rather a symptom. Tinnitus can occur from simpler stuff such as ear canal getting blocked by earwax or several underlying health conditions.
What are hearing loss causes?
The most prevalent cause of loss in hearing is loud noise. Sound from the lawnmowers or loud party music can simply harm the delicate inner ear, steaming into irreversible hearing loss. Loud noise also leads to Tinnitus.
The good news is that these hearing loss causes can be put to stop. Preventing the most noise-related activating can reduce hearing loss to a great extent. Save your ears from getting damaged by turning down the volume of stereo, headphones, or television. Or by wearing headphones or other eye protection devices such as the advanced noise-cancelling ones to reduce the loud noise from your surroundings.
You can use earwax to block the sounds carried from the eardrum to the inner ear. If you find any fault in the wax blockage, discuss this with your physician. They might suggest you with mild treatment for softened earwax.
Hearing loss can also occur due to a punctured eardrum. You can break or damage the eardrum by putting pressure on it or inserting an object in the ear or by infection. If you notice any fluid coming out from your ear, rush to the doctor for immediate care and relief.
Diabetes or essential hypertension is also a common health condition that can cause loss of hearing. Viruses, a heart problem, stroke, tumour, bacteria or brain injury can affect your hearing.
And lastly, taking certain types of medication can also cause loss of hearing.
One such medication is Ototoxic that injures the inner ear permanently. Ototoxic use includes medication to treat severe infection, heart disease or cancer. Even some antibiotics are ototoxic. Intake of aspirin dosages can also cause a few problems. Consult your doctor if you feel or experience any sort of changes in your eyes after taking the medication.
Genetics is also a factor of hearing loss. However, not all inherited types of hearing loss happen at birth, some can also develop later in life.
For instance, in the case of Otosclerosis, perceived as a hereditary disease, is an unusual bone growth that prevents structure inside the ear from functionally correctly.
How to manage hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be difficult to cope with, especially for an older adult. However, whenever you notice a sign of hearing loss, consult your doctor and discuss it. Here’s what else you should do:
- Tell people to know about your hearing problem.
- Request people to look at you and speak a little slow and clearly.
- Ask them to speak louder without yelling or crying out loud.
- Tell people if you don’t understand what they are saying.
- Notice people’s facial gestures and expression to understand clearly.
- Ask a person to rephrase a sentence and try again while speaking.
- Have a conversation at a silent and calm location. Place yourself between the speaker and hunt for calm or peaceful places to talk.
Hearing Loss Treatment
Hearing aids are the foremost solution from the doctors or specialists for hearing loss. Hearing aids are electronic devices, run by the help of batteries that help you to listen easily by making sounds louder. There’s a lot of different hearing aids. So before you purchase yourself a hearing aid, check if you can cover the cost of these devices. Some of them are pretty expensive and difficult to afford. Also, some hearing aids might not always be effective so look for a trial period to make sure if the device is worth investing.
If you don’t know how to use and operate your hearing aid, an audiologist or a hearing aid specialist would also explain how it works.
There’s also assistive-listening devices, cochlear implants, mobile apps and alerting devices to help with loss of hearing. Not all of these implants are effective for all types of hearing loss. For example, cochlear implants are electronic devices for people with severe hearing loss only.
Alert system can help with doorbells, alarm clocks, smoke detectors by sending you signals or vibration visually. For instance, light with a flash can help to identify if a phone is ringing or someone at the door.
While a new category of hearing devices suitable for older adults with both mild and moderate hearing loss is called Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. These devices can be bought by the consumers without any prescription or any need of visiting a hearing health professional.
OTC hearing aids allow few types of sound louder to people to improve hearing loss. It also helps you to listen and communicate better by taking part in daily activities.
What you can do to easily talk to someone with hearing loss
When we lend a helping hand, the adults would feel less embarrassed or reserved for speaking or expressing themselves. Here are some effective tips to apply when you are talking to a person with a hearing problem:
- Bring in people with hearing loss in group conversations, don’t exclude them.
- Talk to them at a quiet place without any background noise, especially in restaurants or at social gatherings.
- Do not hide your mouth, eat or chew gum while you are speaking to them.
- Repeat yourself when necessary using different words to help them understand better.
- Make sure only one person talks at a time.
- Stand in good lighting and use facial expressions or gestures to give clues.
- Face the person while speaking clearly. Maintain eye contact.
- Speak a little slower to them than normal, but don’t shout. Try speaking at a slower pace, but naturally.
- Stay patient, positive and relaxed while conversing with them.
- Ask them how you can help.
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